Courts hear over 1,300 home repossession cases in 10 days
More than 1,300 home repossession cases came before the courts in just 10 days this month, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The shocking figures come as a debt solution advocacy group reports suicidal ideation, alcohol abuse, serious anxiety and high levels of stress among families struggling with debt.
In just 10 days between July 6 and July 16, a flood of repossession cases were heard in Dundalk, Cork, Trim, Clonmel, Portlaoise, Naas, Tralee and Nenagh.
The highest numbers of cases - 131 - took place in Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
The second highest - 110 - were heard in Wicklow.
David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders' Organisation (IMHO) anticipates "a massive avalanche" of repossession cases next autumn.
"The vast majority are going to lose their family home in the absence of a credible State-managed alternative," he said, adding that the insolvency service has resolved "just 500 mortgage cases" since it was established over a year ago.
"The Government is standing back and watching people sink. It is a quicksand of debt," he said.
Last April, New Beginning - a group of lawyers providing legal representation to people facing repossession - began attending court repossession hearings throughout the country.
They attended most of the 1,353 sittings during the 10-day period this month. A further 50 cases are believed to have taken place at the High Court. Almost all these cases were adjourned.
Founder Ross Maguire said: "Homeowners rarely attend. Where they do, they are inevitably unrepresented and are confused and frightened.
"All cases are adjourned on the first date and many other cases are adjourned on consent meaning that something is going on behind the scene such as a short-term payment arrangement," he said. According to the IMHO, three measures must be rolled out in order to save families from "voluntary execution" in the courts.
This includes the introduction of an effective mortgage-to-rent programme - where local authorities and banks share ownership of homes where people cannot pay the mortgage - requiring compulsory solutions from banks, and reducing the bankruptcy term to one year.
"Mortgage to rent is a very cumbersome awkward process that is in urgent need of review.
"In circumstances where everyone agrees that the mortgage is unsustainable and there is an inevitability that someone is going to lose their home, if the house is surrendered, their residual debt should be written off," said Mr Hall anticipating that up to 25,000 people will lose their family home.
There are 100 home repossession cases listed in Cork this week.
Meanwhile, preliminary findings from an on-going IMHO survey on the mental impact of debt on 250 families nationwide reveals the stark reality of arrears.
Larger numbers than expected have reported suicidal thoughts - some with imminent plans to end their own life.
The survey, of men and women aged 29-70 years, also revealed dangerous alcohol consumption patterns as well as high levels of stress among parents and children.
"Debt is a silent killer and it's having major impacts on relationships, ability to work. It is a massive national challenge," said Mr Hall.
"It is a remarkable and embarrassing legacy that we have never put in place or increased resources to help people through this tedious lengthy process," he said.
Although the survey - the first of its kind - started on an anonymous basis, the IMHO are providing packages on mental health to families in need of support.